I was very pleased to hear about a down to earth, South American
(Argentina) cardinal making his way up to become a Pope. You have
probably heard a lot about his helping the poor and reaching out to
beggars in his lifetime.
Having a grandmother from Germany who loved Catholicism and
had her own rosary beads, I knew a little about being a Catholic.
My mother has become more and more a resident in the past,
although she does fine in her senior living apartment up on the
West side of Cleveland. She enjoys having her 5 table mates for
dinner, whose lively conversation includes usually has some gossip
to repeat to me about the people who live in that place.
She also does well at taking care of her “best friend” Nicki, her
dog, which is a mixed breed little fur ball! It has some shih tzu in
My Mom has taken to watching the Catholic channel and will write
me some of the homilies she has heard on recent television programs.
She is not a devout Catholic, more of a follower of God through what she
interprets with her heart and mind.
This new habit of watching the Catholic services and listening to their
sermons and homilies stems back to or is more of a reference to her
childhood lessons from her mother.
My parents always believed in taking us to church, which we all have
become varied followers and believers of God. My two brothers and I
have approached religion in about three different ways. But we all respect
that each individual needs to have their own personal beliefs. I took my 3
children to church almost every Sunday from their baby years through their
high school years. We said bedtime and some meals were accompanied by
prayers. Only 1 of 3 of my grown children goes to church currently.
Anyway, this is all leading up to tell you that I have always loved St. Francis
of Assisi due to a pretty plaque on my grandparents’ wall.
I am sure this was due to my grandmother who was born in Germany and
followed her own mother’s Catholic faith. My grandfather, her husband, was
born in Sweden, followed more of an agnostic practice. But from time to time
he would say to my Dad as we drove out of their driveway, “Drive like a
Both my Dad and Grandpa Mattson would ask this question when a
scientific theory came up or my Christian aunt and uncle were there
debating things, “How BIG is your GOD?” (Meaning, do you feel God
encompasses all religions and faiths, along with loving all people?)
The St. Francis plaque, in my memories,had a handsome, gentle looking
man with a white cloak on with a dove on his shoulder, a deer overlooking
his other shoulder and little creatures at his feet. These animals including
a squirrel, chipmunk, mouse, and a bunny rabbit. I loved St. Francis of Assisi’s
peaceful countenance. I also loved the prayer that accompanied this picture.
I am sure most readers will recognize the very powerful and sweetly sounding
words and see why they mean a lot to me.
These words are from the first part of the St. Francis of Assisi prayer:
“Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace
Where there is hatred, sow love…
It finishes the prayer with more finite words and you can find it on
the internet but the last part does not have as much meaning to myself.
I love the open minded interpretation to the beginning of this prayer.
More recently, in this century, St. Francis was also given the credit for
believing in the environment. Pope John Paul II (Nov. 29, 1979) declared him
the Patron of Ecology. I also like it that St. Francis was the one who thought
that animals should be in a Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene.
Whenever you see the Pope’s name he chose, know that no other Pope has
chosen the name of Francis before. Remember the prayer and its universal
meaning and the animals and ecology that are attributed to Saint Francis.
I find it comforting to know that the new Pope has chosen such a humble
follower of God as his namesake!